In pre-Prohibition times, Rock and Rye was commonly believed to be a cure-all cocktail. The blend of rye whiskey, rock candy sugar and dried fruit was widely distributed at bars and occasionally pharmacies, where it was used to treat the common cold and indigestion. Then Prohibition hit, and the boozy remedy was banned. Though many bartenders tried making it in-house in hopes of a post-Prohibition revival, the liquor's popularity waned. Now, Rock and Rye is slowly making its comeback—behind the bar and with boutique distilleries, which bottle their own secret recipes, like the Mister Katz's Rock & Rye from New York Distilling Company. Recently, cofounder Allen Katz hosted a seminar on the history of the sweetened spirit and how to make it at home. Here, Katz shares some smart tips and a delicious do-it-yourself recipe:
1. Strive for balance. “We always want to make certain that the whiskey is not masked but complemented by the flavors in the infusion; we like a combination of fruits and spices because it mirrors the sweet and bitter notes found in the whiskey itself,” Katz says of his Mister Katz's Rock & Rye.
2. Experiment and use spices sparingly. There's a number of dried fruits and flowers, spices and sugars that can be incorporated into the sweetened whiskey. Katz recommends exploring a few options but staying cautious. “Star anise and clove are quite powerful—a little goes a long way,” he says.
3. Taste over ice and over time. By leaving the spirit on the rocks over a period of time, you can see how dilution and chilling alters the flavors.
Allen Katz’s Rock & Rye
One 750-milliliter bottle of American rye whiskey (90 to 100 proof)
2 ounces sugar (rock candy, granulated, demerara--each will give a unique quality and finish)
3 ounces dried fruits (Katz uses Bing cherries for flavor and natural color, but other berries work as well)
1 ounce citrus peels
Pinch of cinnamon
In a clean, food-grade container combine the whiskey and sugar. Stir or shake together until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fruits, citrus peels and cinnamon. Let the ingredients sit for 24 hours and test. If more infusion is desired, let sit, stirring or shaking occasionally, up to 2 to 3 days. Strain the ingredients and store in the sealed whiskey bottle.
New York Distilling Company’s full-service bar, The Shanty, is open every evening. Visit The Shanty on weekends and receive a complimentary tour of the distillery.
Related: 5 Ways to Make a Whiskey Sour